The World Cup race at La Bresse, France last weekend was a genuine thriller. The track was technically challenging with a lot of climbs and descents, so it tasted especially good to go right to the top! Four years have passed since my last World Cup victory, but it was my very first World Cup victory after becoming a mother.
The race, exactly one week ago, was an unforgettable experience in many ways. Kenneth and I arrived at the track on Friday afternoon, straight from altitude training in Livigno, and had changed into cycling clothing in the car as we drove. We had to just jump onto the bike at take a lap. We had to get on and off the bike a lot when everything is new, but in the end, I managed to ride through everything without dismounting. Afterwards, as I was on the rollers, working the track out of my legs, I had to admit to myself that I was somewhat affected by the adrenaline kick the course had given me!
After a stint on the rollers in the Merida tent, we just had to jump into the car and find our way to the apartments Multivan Merida had booked for us (the team had arrived on Wednesday evening).
I have to have a good 30-45 minutes of stretching per day, after a training stint, and then we headed for the centre of La Bresse to get my start number as one of the top 10 in the World Cup. After that I had a two-hour massage from Kenneth before eating dinner. The day had started with a wake-up call at 6:00 am and then five hours by car to France. We were pretty worn out when we went to bed, but had a good feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction at being in place and ready for a new World Cup race.
Good feeling on the course
We had breakfast with the team on Saturday morning at 8:00 am. I was at the expo in the Merida tent before 9:30. The first warm-up on the rollers lasted 20 minutes. Kenneth went straight to the course, as he wanted a bit of extra training on the most technical parts before we were to ride together. I headed for the track with my teammate Ralph Näf, but wasn't able to do too many of the technical parts with him as he punctured halfway down the descent. I got to try out everything and headed out for another lap in the hopes of finding Kenneth. After a while I achieved acceptable flow even though we hadn't been able to do more than three laps of the course in all.
The start time on Sunday morning was 11:30 am. I usually start my warm-up one hour before start, on the rollers, so I get 40 minutes of effective work on the bicycle seat before the race starts. My physical shape has grown steadily better these last weeks, which has also been the plan since the start of the season, and Kenneth told me without doubt that I definitely had the best legs I'd had so far this season (better than any time in 2011, too). I had a total of 220 hours of effective massage time from Kenneth in 2011, so I know that he knows my own muscles better than myself.
I was very focused on getting quickly out from the start and was perfectly happy to take the lead, as there had been several crashes in the first few hundred metres of the World Cup in Nove Mesto the weekend before. I was a few metres ahead after the start loop, but was number four or five when the climb started on the first lap. I had the good feeling and was reasonably relaxed and focused on the job I had to do. I received good and vital information from Kenneth two to three places on each round as usual, and that kind of coaching is essential for my performance.
A wild thriller
It turned out to be a raw thriller right to the very finish, where five girls left the rest early in the race and fought a clean fight right to the end. Many thoughts and emotions coarse through your body when arms and legs are right on the limit, your sight becomes blurry, and your fingers can no longer grasp the handlebar and brakes as tightly as before. I don't want to divulge how I think and how I master such a situation - I might share a bit more of that sort of information when the season is over!
Anyway, it's an exciting and fascinating process which one enters right at the end of a race in our sport. At this point, your body isn't necessarily being guided by its engine, energy, lung capacity or technical abilities any longer. After 90 minutes right up at the limit of what's possible, one's pain-levels are smashed to bits and it's one's mind that decides who reaches the finish line first. It was totally unreal for me to roll over the finish line as the winner of a World Cup race again, and it tasted fantastic. We've worked hard for this one, for a very long time.
The Multivan Merida team worked at its very best, the atmosphere amongst the riders and support team was cheerful and good, and our team manager, Andi Rottler, turned 40 on this very day. For this reason, it was highly suitable for one of us to bring home a victory as a gift to this "aging" man.
Action packed days
After crossing the finish line, we had to hop into the car again (we have our own VW Multivan when we're abroad and it's simply a fantastic vehicle, wonderful to drive, and we can bring our whole family and kit along with us), and head for Innsbruck. My mother and father, and our fantastic little boy were actually to have arrived at Innsbruck the weekend before, Monday after the World Cup race in Nove Mesto, but they had to postpone their travels as Bjørnar fell ill.
I was probably pretty high on adrenaline after the race, in addition to being very keen to meet Bjørnar again, so I drove a tad too fast and was stopped by the police and got a speeding ticket. I wasn't the only cyclist who was stopped in this same area, right before the border to Switzerland, so it became a bit of a joke. I think a girl from Holland who also drives for Merida also got a fine.
So we're having one night in Innsbruck, and then a family trip back to our apartment (apartment Anna) in the centre of Livigno, where we have another week to go. We've had lovely weather since we arrived and we're enjoying great days of training. Bjørnar is out on his bike with grandmother and grandfather every day, and there are loads of places for him to play in the whole valley here.
Our next travels go to Moscow where the European Championships will be held in exactly two weeks. We're looking primarily forward to tomorrow and a whole week here in beautiful Livigno.
I wish you all a great and exciting week of exercise.
Cyclist's greetings from Gunn-Rita
Multivan Merida Biking Team
[Translation: Crispen T.P. de Lange]
See a video from the Multivan Merida team on the La Bresse World Cup.